Sex ed for teenagers is a famously knotty subject, which explains why Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman, wants to eschew sex ed classes in favor of literature courses. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children,” he said in a television interview. “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.” (No word yet on what he thinks of Crime and Punishment.) (h/t The Paris Review)
A conference on the implications of Google’s proposed settlement with publishers will highlight the massive role Google’s scanning project will play in the future of books. “‘This is the last library.’ It’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone else to create a similar digital library in the future, at least under the current laws.”
As the 20th century wore on, the Strugatsky brothers grew pessimistic about Soviet Communism, eventually turning their fictional worlds from socialist utopias to dystopias. Their most famous early novel, Noon: 22nd Century bears little resemblance to later works like Hard to Be a God, which implicitly criticizes the Soviet government. At The Paris Review Daily, Ezra Glinter charts their evolution.
A couple years ago, Robert Birnbaum interviewed Edith Pearlman for The Millions, asking why the highly regarded short story writer didn’t hit it big until recently. Now, in the Times, Laura van den Berg reads Pearlman’s book Honeydew, in a piece that nicely complements Steve Almond’s profile of the author. FYI, Laura van den Berg has written for us.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn’s column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area’s largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering “Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?”I’m glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it’s been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn’t a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because “she was angry at library staff for being rude to her.”
“If [Langston] Hughes and Cullen were competitors, of sorts, for the prize of principal African American poet of their generation, Cullen may have had an early lead, and during the later 1920s and early 1930s they were often discussed in tandem.” At The Boston Review, Major Jackson takes a look at the career and legacy of Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen.